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editorial

Leon Bannister poses with a pint of beer at the Bricklayers Arms, in Grays, Essex January 4, 2011. British pubgoers could soon ditch their traditional pint in favour of a "schooner", a smaller measure of beer used in Australia, under government changes announced on Tuesday. REUTERS/Paul Hackett (BRITAIN - Tags: SOCIETY POLITICS)PAUL HACKETT/Reuters

When you walk into a licensed establishment and order a draft beer, do you ask for a "pint" or do you ask for a pint*?

Most people, we suspect, ask for a "pint" – that is, a vaguely measured large glass of beer that is reassuringly close enough in size to all the other large glasses of beer they've ever ordered. But that's no longer possible. From now on, you will be ordering a pint*, thanks to toughened regulations that came into force last month under the Fairness at the Pumps Act .

The pumps referred to are the ones in gas stations, and the act is a Harper government bill that gives Industry Canada more powers to inspect more retail measurement devices more frequently. It also raises fines for keepers of imprecise gas pumps, sellers of undersize cords of firewood, butchers who put their thumb on the scale – and bartenders who don't serve a pint* when someone asks for a "pint."

No one is going to argue with that, obviously. A "pint" is a pint*. When people find out that they have the government's backing to insist on a pint*, they're going to enforce the law. Who doesn't want a few extra ounces of beer in their glass, even if bars have to raise their prices to provide them and bartenders are doomed to listen to pint-happy customers explain for the one-thousandth time that they know their federal drinking rights?

Most bars, of course, diligently and proudly ensure there is a pint* of beer in a "pint." The most common offence is to deprive the drinker of a precise pint* in order to make room for the drink's foamy head – hardly a felonious act. We advise bartenders to keep an eye out for customers bearing measuring cups, and to strike the word "pint" from their vocabularies and chalk boards. If someone orders a "pint," ask them if they are referring to the measurement found in the same law that regulates the size of a bushel, a square rod and an arpent, or if they just want a large glass of beer.

*20 fluid ounces, with a 0.5 fl oz error or margin, foam not included, as per regulations deriving from Weights and Measures Act (RS 1985)